We had the good fortune of connecting with Toluwani Gbalajobi and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Toluwani, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I knew I loved baking, trying new restaurants, and meeting new people that shared the same passions as me! Those 3 were the major starting points. When I first launched my website it was right before the pandemic hit in February 2020. Originally it was a place to share amazing recipes, snack brands, and cool spots to eat. We even had a small column on the site highlighting a book of the month! It wasn’t enough to keep me active. After a while (a few weeks) I drifted away, stopped posting, and eventually forgot about it all together. I picked it back up after a major turning point in my life—moving back home to Houston. I spent 3 years away in California in drama school, and I found myself in a position with no money, no inspiration, and on the verge of depression. I was forced to sit down and look at what was in my hands: creativity, talent, and a love of food. In that moment God spoke to me and The Kitchen Conversation came back into my mind. I knew that this time around was going to be different, and it was going to be much more impactful. Not a place just for me, but for others as well. I officially relaunched September 1st, 2021 with the mission that this is going to be a hub for creatives and foodies by creatives and foodies.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
From a small age I knew I wanted to be an actor….then I wanted to be a chef….then a photographer…and many more occupations. I never settled on doing only one thing for the rest of my life. I knew life was too precious, and way too long, to only focus on one career or job title. When I first moved to California at 22, I found so many individuals pursuing different things in the creative space. Art, clothing, poetry, music, and food were a few of many occupations in Los Angeles. Everyone was working on something that brought them true joy. I took the time to focus on my acting but left my other passions aside. Now that I’m older & wiser, there are so many sides of me that wants to thrive and grow. I love that I can’t describe what I do for a living, because I do it all!

I started The Kitchen Conversation because there wasn’t a platform for everyone who did everything. There are networks for business women, spaces for artists, groups for women in tech, but nothing for the mom who’s also a baker who also does IT consulting and has a startup. I think there’s something amazing about people who tap into their creative sides with the right support & resources. As an actor, it’s a big industry, but what makes it easier & helpful is knowing I have the right tools, community, and team to help me accomplish my dreams. It’s the same for every other occupation.

The only reason I am where I am is because I took risks & bet on myself. I take risks and it absolutely terrifies me! I love doing new things but I hate the uncertainty of the outcome. I’m always second guessing and psyching myself out. In the back of my mind questions swarm around like, “what’s on the other side of this” “how is this gonna work” “will this be successful” “it’s gonna crash and burn”. To be honest, I don’t think that side of taking risks will ever go away. But I’ve learned to always weigh both sides. I look at the upside with the same amount of energy as looking at the downside: “it’s gonna be amazing” “we’re about to take off” “this is gonna impact so many people” “The Kitchen Conversation is gonna be on Forbes!” There are so many phases I went through with my brand and my career before it finally all clicked for me. Each of these moments included big risks and the courage to look at myself & trust whatever the outcome is going to be. Looking back, I know that it’s not about “what happens”, it’s about what I learned along the way.

I want people to look at me & relate to my experiences. Moving away from home, moving back home, starting a business, learning how to cook, doubting myself, learning to trust myself-there’s something in my life and my endeavors that can speak to everyone. I’m still learning, and I always want to be transparent with the roughness of the journey. I’m proud of my journey because it made me the strong person I am today. I’m happy to talk about my difficulties and struggles because it emphasizes my success! Everyday I learn new lessons, and find out cool things about myself. I want the world to know that I’m just like them. In truth, I have been through tough times and I’ve been through amazing times. If everyone could look inward and see that their journeys are meant to grow them–not break them, we’d have a completely different outlook on life.

There’s a famous African proverb that states “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I want to build up a community of individuals that can learn from, lean on, & support one another all while enjoying a huge chocolate chip cookie!

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m a Houston native and I LOVE MY CITY. I’d first take them to my favorite food spots in Houston perfect for breakfast, lunch, or dinner:

Tiny’s No. 5
Mike’s Seafood
Osso & Kristalla
JOEY’s Uptown

I’d take them to my favorite coffee spots:

Forth + Nomad
Giant Leap Coffee
Blendin Coffee Club
Sunday Press

We’d go for a bike ride at Buffalo Bayou, eat tons of ramen in Midtown, and visit art Museums.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shoutout to my mama! I’m a first generation Nigerian American born and raised in Houston, TX. My mother raised me by herself. She worked incredibly hard to make sure my siblings and I had food on the table, good clothes on our backs, and endless amounts of love. Seeing the hard work and dedication my mom had without big paychecks, or the best resources gave me the opportunity to know: everything I need, I already have. Without her support, there’s no way I’d be where I am today. Her sacrificing her career, putting up with harsh work conditions, and praying endlessly for me is the reason why I know I’ll accomplish every goal I have for myself.

Website: thekitchenconversation.com

Instagram: http://instagram.com/_thekitchenconversation/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mykitchenconvos

Facebook: Facebook.com/thekitchenconversation

Other: Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/KitchenConversation/

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutHTX is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.